Premise: Following the events of the first film, former Soviet engineer Ivan Vanko (Mickey Rourke) is inspired to use his own ingenuity and know how to lash out against America and Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.). Vanko’s cunning and technical prowess captures the attention of industrialist Justin Hammer (Sam Rockwell) who enlists his Vanko’s help to compete with Stark Industries and create their own version of the Iron Man suit and possibly even undermine the rival companies position in the market.
Story: So on the surface it seems like Iron Man 2 is following very closely the lessons learned in the first film to craft something engaging and with texture for the audiences that is also fun and action packed. The sad reality is that this film suffers horribly for not returning Mark Fergus, Hawk Ostby, Art Marcum and Matt Holloway to their writers chairs. Instead, Justin Theroux is solely tasked with following the powerhouse film that launched the current Marvel comic adaptation whirlwind. The result is powerfully disappointing. Where 4 minds seem to have come together to craft a single story with nuance and depth, Theroux seems to simply be overwhelmed by the number of roles that he has to write for powerful actors.
Acting: Robert Downey Jr. (Tony Stark/Iron Man), Gwyneth Paltrow (Pepper Potts), Don Cheadle (Lt. Col. ‘Rhodey’ Rhodes), Scarlett Johansson (Natasha Romanoff), Sam Rockwell (Justin Hammer), Mickey Rourke (Ivan Vanko), Samuel L. Jackson (Nick Fury). Holy shit that’s a lot of A-Listers and otherwise powerful performers! It’s small wonder that Theroux gets lost. This would be the classic example of how less truly is more. The film is simply drowning in characters that there isn’t suitable time to establish antagonisms in any meaningful way. Moreover from that the action scenes are written as though there was great intent plunge it something deep an nuanced when Theroux first sat down to write, but by 3am, still had many pages to do, so he simply finishes with “and then a laser just kills everyone. Scene.”
Execution: This film has many, many problems and while the acting doesn’t glow, it’s not hurting. There simply doesn’t seem to have been enough time for the filmmakers to work with everyone in order to coax out their best. For clarity, no one is expecting Oscar-worthy performances, but after the tight, concise nature of the first film, a little more from this film was certainly expected. All on board are simply so completely and utterly capable that this is nothing more than a misuse of precious talent. The narrative by contrast is similarly clumsy and lacks a clear direction and motivation. At almost exactly the same length as the first film (a scant 2 minutes shorter) the endeavors of the narrative are orders of magnitude more complex and demanding and would have required a much defter touch in the writers and editing chairs than were present for this film.
Overall Impression: After all is said and done, this is the black sheep of the Iron Man flock and quite simply is best if omitted from the collection. The narrative continuity from the first and third film, with but few exceptions flows seamlessly. The few gaps that there are can easily be accounted for and concealed beneath less aggravating films in the MCU like the Thor and Captain America and Avengers films. Omit this one entirely.